“We’ll make 2016 decisions after we finish 2015,” Rizzo said. “He’s under contract to be the manager next year.”
As the Nationals’ season fell apart, a deluge of criticism drenched Williams, whose players did not exactly provide an umbrella of support — with the notable exception of the aforementioned 22-year-old star, Bryce Harper. What could Williams have done better?
“Possibly managed the health of the players better,” said Rizzo, a statement open to interpretation, though most likely meant sarcastically, because he cited injuries as a reason Williams rarely was able to manage a stable lineup.
“I think Matt has persevered through a lot of different injuries and a lot of different ebbs and flows of the season,” Rizzo said. “He’s had to juggle maybe as many different lineups as any manager has in baseball, as many injuries at different times and groups of players coming off the disabled list at the same time.”
“If I knew who that person was, I would respond to that,” Rizzo said, “but some blind accusation from an unnamed source, I don’t react to those.”
After his team won its 80th game of the season, far later than anticipated before the campaign began, Rizzo maintained his season-long stance that this team was built to win.
“I could say that the roster we put together in the preseason, we felt it was a strong roster. You guys felt it was a strong roster. I think 17 of 18 of you [media members] picked us to win the World Series, so I think you guys thought we created ourselves a good, balanced, high-character, high-quality lineup,” Rizzo said. “A lot of things go wrong. When things go wrong, you find out where your deficiencies are. Things went wrong quickly and they went wrong very often.”
On opening day, his team was the betting favorite to win the World Series. Then, starters got injured. The starting lineup he built played two games intact. But injuries have not absolved Rizzo of scrutiny: Should he have traded for Jonathan Papelbon, with his reputation for trouble-making, and alienated Drew Storen? Should he have hired Williams in the first place? Did he do enough at the trade deadline to bolster his team for the second half?
“I would say that looking back at the season, when I look back at it, I’ll probably see some things I should’ve done different that I didn’t do,” Rizzo said. “Like I said, everything rolls down from the general manager and president of baseball operations office. I take full responsibility for the quality of players we put on the team — on the field, excuse me. That goes from the 2009 season when I took over to after today’s win.”